Gordon Swanston.

Gordon Swanston, currently a Site Manufacturing Manager based in Avonmouth with the bakers, Hovis – part of Premier Foods Ltd – has been a fan of facilitation tools and techniques for some ten years. In that time, in various business contexts, Gordon has seen the application of these tools and techniques produce increased engagement among workforces; improved working relations between management and unions; more efficient and effective management and, ultimately, improved work and business performance.


“Some ten years ago, when I was working for British Bakeries, the Operations Director became keen on using facilitation tools to improve business performance,” Gordon explained. “At that time we began working with Tony Mann, of Resource Strategic Change. Among other things, Tony explained that those who lead organisations need to adopt facilitation as an underpinning skill and should seek to cascade a facilitative approach in the way that teams and individuals operate. Under his guidance, we saw how facilitation enables the quality of decisions to be improved, imposes an effective use of time and ensures clarity and understanding.”


Gordon put all this into practice in a pilot study based in the south west of England encompassing some 16 junior and senior managers – drawn from various disciplines within the business including operations, HR and finance. Gordon said: “We discovered that the key to success was all about repetition of these tools and techniques, so that they became ingrained not only in each manager’s management style but they also became ingrained in the corporate consciousness and culture.


Acknowledging that it’s difficult to identify a monetary business benefit from applying facilitation tools and techniques, Gordon said: “Would we have improved performance anyway? Yes. However, did applying these facilitation tools and techniques help us to improve performance? Undoubtedly.”


Based on methodology written and developed by Resource Strategic Change’s Tony Mann, APMG-International – the provider of specialist qualifications for knowledge-based workers, including PRINCE2® and ITIL® – has launched a certification scheme in Facilitation skills. The scheme aims to teach candidates how to design, apply and use specific processes and tools in order to increase the success of programmes and projects. APMG’s scheme offers facilitators the opportunity to be trained, assessed and certified in a similar way to project managers with Foundation and Practitioner qualifications.